Last year, deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado region, one of the largest savannas in the world, reached its highest level since 2015, according to newly released data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Following that announcement, an INPE researcher said the government would stop monitoring deforestation in the Cerrado, owing to a lack of funds.
“It’s extremely worrying,” Mercedes Bustamante, an ecologist at the University of Brasilia, told Reuters.
From August 2020 through July 2021, the Cerrado region, home to a rich array of plants and animals, lost 8,531 square kilometers of vegetation, an area larger than the state of Delaware. Over the last half-century, roughly half the Cerrado has been lost as farms and ranches expand into the savanna.
While the Cerrado is more sparsely forested than the Amazon rainforest, trees in this arid region extend their roots deep underground to withstand droughts and wildfires, forming a significant carbon sink. Deforestation in the Cerrado is unleashing these stores of carbon, a major source of emissions in Brazil.
Just days after INPE released its data on deforestation, it announced that it would run out of money for monitoring within six months, Reuters reported. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who has weakened environmental protections and scaled down enforcement, previously attacked INPE for releasing data revealing widespread deforestation in the Amazon.
“Deforestation is the most naked and raw indicator of the terrible environmental policy of this government,” Ane Alencar, science director at the nonprofit Amazon Environmental Research Institute, told Reuters.
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